Fender buys Bigsby

By Miguel Ángel Ariza

The red hot news in the electric guitar industry this week has been led by the American giant Fender and one of the most recognized and recognizable component brands in the world, the - also American - Bigsby.   

The first question that came to mind at Guitars Exchange was: but didn’t Fender already own this brand (that is on its way to its eighth decade of life)? The question arises due to the almost mystical union between Bigsby and the guitar brand Gretsch since the 50s; a guitar brand that was acquired by Fender in 2002. Hence, this new purchase by Fender has surprised us more for its delay than for the purchase itself.

That said, the occasion couldn’t be better for us to delve further into the Bigsby universe and the models that these ‘installed bridges’ have made history in modern music. 

As we said the relationship between Gretsch and Bigsby has been based on true and infinite love almost since the beginning of both companies; and it is impossible not to start this list of models without talking about the iconic Gretsch. Models like the White Falcon, the Tennessee Rose, the Country Gentleman - and even the acoustic models of the brand such as the Rancher - always come with the eternal Bigsby bridge.

However it’s not only Gretsch brand models that come to mind, but also many Gibsons that have marked our lives with a Bigsby. First among them is Mr.
Neil Young’s legendary Les Paul 'Old Black' (remember we already talked about this Les Paul Goldtop 53 in its day); but perhaps for many the most legendary Gibson with Bigsby is not that, but the one that Keith Richards took with him on his first North American tour and that many argue is the person responsible for many musicians of the time beginning to look for the then forgotten ’59 Burst.

Others will argue that the true icon of the union of Gibson and Bigsby is perhaps the Gibson Les Paul Black Beauty, with which
Jimmy Page began to make a name for himself among studio musicians in London; and that would give him the opportunity to become who he became shortly after. But we cannot forget other models of the brand such as the Gibson ES-275, ES-335, ES-345 and ES-355; sisters that throughout history have always had some version with a mounted Bigsby. 

But so many brands, besides these two, have decided to build a Bigsby on their necks of one of their models. Mythical guitars such as the Guild Starfire III, the Epiphone Riviera and Casino include the legendary lever in all or some of its versions. Neither have Japanese brands - and more tending to modern touches such as Yamaha - escaped the charms of these so-called vibratos in models like the Revstar.

Finally, let's pay a small tribute to the brand that has acquired Bigsby and not only its subsidiary Grestch. For many decades now we have been able to enjoy an authentic Fender standard such as the Fender Telecaster with a mounted Bigsby resulting in what I believe is one of the most beautiful electric guitars on the market and that we can acquire today from a good number of different options. 

There are countless guitars out there making music based on a lever with a mounted Bigsby bridge. And as we said at the beginning, the union of this brand to the giant Fender was something that if it hadn’t happened, it had to happen sooner or later. To everyone's delight it seems that the relationship between both groups of management has always been good and that Bigsby will continue to have independence within Fender to continue making history with its own name, as it has done up to now.